Munster head coach Johann van Graan pleased to see off Saracens
Munster head coach Johann van Graan insisted he was just happy to come away with a win against champions Saracens in their hard-fought Champions Cup Pool 4 fixture at Thomond Park.
Saracens, minus the likes of England stars Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, picked up a losing bonus point in the 10-3 defeat in difficult conditions.
The sides play the return fixture at Allianz Park next Saturday.
Second-placed Munster, who scored the only try through captain Peter O’Mahony in the 30th minute, trail Pool 4 pacesetters Racing 92 by a point and enjoy a five-point advantage over third-placed Sarries ahead of that return game.
Scrum-half Ben Spencer landed one of his three penalty attempts for the visitors.
Afterwards Van Graan, asked if he was disappointed that Saracens had managed to take a losing bonus point from the game, said: “We will take a win against Saracens any day of the week. Right from the start we knew this pool was going to be tight.
“From our point of view we are still unbeaten in the group. An away win with a bonus point over the Ospreys, a home win against Saracens and a draw against Racing, so it is going to go right down to the wire.
“The only thing we can control is next week against Saracens again in London. I am very glad about the win, very tough conditions in that last 50 minutes of the game.”
Munster lost replacement back rower Arno Botha to a late red card for leading with a forearm into Saracens’ Nick Tompkins.
Van Graan said of the incident: “I will have to go and have a look at it again. Initial thoughts, the referee didn’t have any choice. Look, it happens so quickly, it was literally instinct.
“It was actually such a great carry and unfortunately if his forearm made contact with the head the referee doesn’t have any decision to award a red card. Obviously he feels bad about it, it happens in a split second and we will just have to look at it.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said his feelings on the low-scoring encounter were mixed, admitting: “A mix of being very pleased with a lot of things, the effort, the togetherness we showed, the ability to bounce back from a number of things that went wrong in the game, that was really good.
“A bit of frustration because having got ourselves into a situation where we had the elements in the second half and only a seven-point deficit, it is probably something we will look back on and be frustrated that we could not have done better in the second half.”
McCall felt the losing bonus point keeps the title holders in the mix for qualification from the group, despite suffering their second away defeat of the pool stages.
“It is probably out of our hands to a degree. We need to win next week. We do know Munster have a tough game away to Racing in round five. There is definitely hope, but next week is huge for us and we’ve got to win next week.”
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